THE PENN STATE SCANDAL: WAS IT A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE?
by Benjamin J Spencer
November 11, 2011
This week, Penn State alumni, trustees, and students watched in horror as in a few short days, the legacies of their beloved football coach, Joe Paterno, and the reputations of most of their university leadership crumbled to dust.
Here’s a breakdown of the skeezy goings-on, for those of you just climbing out of your sensory deprivation chambers:
Back in 2002, a graduate assistant told Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football history, that he had witnessed assistant coach Jerry Sandusky raping a 10 year old boy in a Penn State locker room shower. Paterno notified school athletic director Tim Curley, who passed the news on up the chain to Gary Schultz, senior vice president of the university. So far, so good.
But then nothing happened. A PA grand jury investigation found that in defiance of state law, not one administrator notified any authorities outside of the school, even as other sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky were piling up (eventually involving the abuse and rape of eight children over 15 years, in some instances occurring in the same Penn State locker room).
More and more details of Sandusky’s abuses came to light. Some of them were so blatant and clear-cut, there’s a good chance that if just one of the several officials who knew about Sandusky had simply told police, he never would have had the chance to abuse another child – as he allegedly did again in 2007. Instead, from Paterno, to the assistant coach, all the way on up to the top administrators, they all kept silent.
Even worse, Sandusky was free to continue working with the children’s charity he founded until 2008, when the investigation got going. He didn’t resign from the charity until last year.
Last week, both Curley and Schultz were charged with perjury and failing to report a crime, and the Penn State trustees forced them to step down. The trustees also fired Paterno and school president Graham Spanier.
Thousands of students loyal to Paterno then promptly rioted, and the streets of ironically named Happy Valley were filled with tear gas and overturned TV news vans.
Now to the real question: why the alleged cover-up (alleged because Sandusky and the administrators all protest their innocence)? What kind of school culture could inspire accomplished professionals to maintain silence for years while an a probable sexual predator used their grounds for vile acts, ran a children’s charity, and all the while, received a pension and walked free?
Some commentators, like this Time reporter, say a cult-like ‘code of silence’ prompted by intense media scrutiny is the culprit, while a seriously pissed-off New York Times editorial by George Vecsey blames big-money university football itself.
“Ultimately, they all serve the monster that rises on 12 Saturdays a year,” Vecsey said of the disgraced administrators, calling the whole college football system “oppressive.”
He had harsh words for Paterno and other coaches too: “They get so puffed up with trying to go undefeated that they lose sight of reality,” he raged. “Just to run this kind of program demands moral blinkers.”